Today was Stowe’s final lift-served day of the season, and with a pleasant, sunny forecast, we headed off for some runs in the afternoon. Temperatures were in the 50s F at the base, and the Mansfield parking lot was awash in group after group of tailgaters. We got a nice parking space in front of the Mansfield Base Lodge from someone who was just leaving and hoofed it up to the base of the Fourrunner Quad. There was a lift queue of a few minutes, which seems to be common this time of the year when the Fourrunner Quad is bearing the lion’s share of the workload.
Overall, the skiing was a little sloppy in spots, but there’s generally been plenty of freeze-thaw cycles to get the snow turned into corn. We did find some snow high up in the bypass chutes that was almost wintry in consistency because it was so protected from warmth. Hayride was fun, with some steep bump lines, although they were generally spaced wider than our preference. Lower National had much better bump lines as is typical. We also had some fun cruising on Lord. As usual during the corn harvest season, we had our own corn harvest of sorts each run as everyone got the snow off their skis to supply snowballs for lift tower and chair target practice.
Typical of April, the weather looks like it will soon be changing, and after this relatively sunny and warm week, next week looks to be cooler and wet with some potential for snow. The forecasts suggest that a cutoff low pressure system may form in the region, and those can sometimes deliver copious amounts of precipitation as the storm sits and spins. We’ll have to watch and see if anything develops, but there’s always the potential for late season snowstorms this time of year in the mountains. Some recent favorites that come to mind are April 28th, 2010 and April 10th, 2012, which each delivered hefty dumps of snow to the mountains for fun April powder turns.
Today was the final lift-served day of the 2014-2015 ski season at Bolton Valley, and with the weather featuring temperatures around 60 F and sunny skies, we headed up this afternoon to enjoy some warm spring skiing. The weather was really quite a blast of spring after a long, cold winter, and with a sign at the base of the Timberline Quad Chair that read “AND ON THE LAST DAY… SPRING ARRIVED!”, it was obvious that we weren’t the only ones feeling that way. Indeed the first third of the month has been quite cool, but that’s kept the base of the snowpack in good shape, and even added some rounds of powder that we’ve been able to enjoy over the past couple of weeks. The good snow preservation was very obvious as we rode the Timberline Quad and looked down – there were just a few rocks poking through here and there. That says a lot since the Timberline terrain is low elevation and faces west; it’s typically the first place on the mountain to start losing its snowpack.
We started the afternoon off with a trip on Spell Binder, and found a nice ridge to ski down the center of the headwall. The snow was well softened into spring corn of course, and it was even a bit sticky at times. I’m sure the absolute primo time for the snow was a bit earlier in the day, but what we got was still quite good. Twice as Nice was fun, and that’s when everyone started to have snowball fights on the slope – I managed to avoid getting hit most of the time, although Ty was in hot pursuit down much of the trail.
We decided to head over to the main mountain to see how Spillway was skiing, and it was a bit slow getting through the flats of Villager, but we had fun pushing and pulling each other along. The main base area was hopping, with lots of people out on the back deck of the lodge, and a D.J. playing tunes and taking requests. Spillway had some very nice corn snow, with a ridge along the skier’s right that was great for skiing, or grinding, depending on your preference. The boys did a lot of grinding/drifting on it, and Dylan had an especially long slide that left quite a track.
It was getting close to closing time as we approached the base, so we played it safe to ensure we could get back to Timberline and made our way to the Snowflake Summit to catch the connection. That route was a little slow at times as well, being a green slope, but we had more fun pulling and pushing each other with “crack the whip” types of moves. Areas with pitch were skiing nicely. I actually think that the snow down low at Timberline was better in some respects because it probably had seen a bit more corn snow cycling, but all elevations will be getting there eventually. With Bolton Valley’s lifts closed for the season now, we’re thinking Stowe next weekend, depending on the weather, and then we’ll see where our ski adventures take us for the next couple of months before summer arrives.
Temperatures were around the freezing mark in the valley, but dropped into the 20s F up in the higher elevations. I swung past Timberline and found about 3-4” of new snow there, but I kept going up to the main base area, planning to use the Wilderness ascent route. It was in the mid 20s F, blowing, and indeed downright wintry up in the Village. I made my way over to the base of Wilderness, and broke trail up the ascent route, since nobody had been out in that area before me. There really wasn’t any noticeable difference between the accumulation of new snow up there above 2,000’, and I found essentially the same depth as I did at the base of Timberline and even our house, so there wasn’t too much elevation dependence with this snowfall. This was actually my first time getting to use the official ascent route on Wilderness since it’s been in place. I stuck to the climbers left where the signs are, although my usual preference up there is on the climber’s right for whatever reason. I can’t figure out if it’s because it feels more sheltered or what.
I ascended to near the mid station elevation, switched over, and started my descent. The snow was reasonably dense, so with my 115 mm AMPerages it was easy to float on the available snow. There were a few scoured spots due to the winds, so I did touch down in a few of those however. I skied a bit of the Wilderness Woods, but with the contours in there, the wind had actually scoured a few more spots, so I quickly returned to Lower Turnpike. It was a nice run, certainly nothing epic, but there was some good powder skiing, I got in a quick workout, and naturally it was a great way to start the day.
Back down in the valley, snow totals had fallen off west of Bolton Flats, and in the town of Bolton itself it only looked like there was an inch or two of new snow. Snow totals seemed the least in the zone heading westward from Bolton to around Richmond, and then they increased again as I got into the Champlain Valley. I’m not sure exactly why the snow stuck to the trees so well in the Burlington area relative to other towns to the east, but it was unquestionably the most picturesque area I saw west of the mountains. Eyewall’s pictures do a great job of showing how beautiful this snowfall was in the Burlington area.
The sun was just starting to come out in spots as I left the house in mid afternoon, and as I headed up the Bolton Valley Access Road I could see the last flakes from the storm blowing lightly through the air. I’d opted to head all the way up the main mountain based on the strong elevation dependence of this recent storm, and I grabbed a spot in the top parking lot from someone who had already left. The winds up high were sufficient to keep the Vista Quad from running, so I walked right over to Wilderness for a run. The sun was really starting to come out and produces some wonderful views of the fresh snow, but it was still cold like mid winter, with temperatures around 20 F. I decided to take a run through White Rabbit as I’d done last Saturday, and found that the storm had totally erased any signs of previous tracks. Indeed the snow was right in line with the report, as there was roughly a half foot of powder out there. Although the powder turns on White Rabbit were fine, I’d already encountered some potentially challenging conditions in some places where the subsurface snow hadn’t fully refrozen, so you could sink down through the new powder and get into some mush. In a way it was a really good excuse to call on the extra floatation of fat skis, although I’d just brought my midfat Teles today. They worked fine, although once I got down toward the end of Snow Hole I found that the lower elevation meant less freezing of the underlying snow and more potential to punch through the soft subsurface. The main traveled areas of Snow Hole were skiing fine though, so I just stuck with the spots that had previously been packed and skied. Lower Turnpike was skiing beautifully, as was the Wilderness Lift Line based on the quiet sounds of people making their turns while I was on the lift.
For my next run I headed up Wilderness again, and this time visited the Outlaw Woods. The subsurface there in untouched areas was less secure than what I’d found on White Rabbit, and perhaps that was due to more exposure to the sun. With the Vista Quad down on wind hold, I cut left at the Wilderness Mid Station and headed over to some of the Vista trails to see how they were skiing with no traffic. The trails were awesome with the packed surface underneath, and a few fresh inches on top. I caught some turns at the bottom of Hard Luck and they were fantastic – it probably would have been worth a skin up to higher on Vista, but I hadn’t brought my skins since I’d planned to take it pretty easy as I recuperated from being under the weather this week. I made my way over to the Snowflake Summit and found Snowflake Bentley totally untracked, so I put a nice signature down that and then headed onto Lower Bentley to do virtually the same thing. From there I just skied down past the townhouses and back to the parking lot. It should be interesting to see how the skiing shapes up for tomorrow with the way it’s cooling down tonight – it might actually improve the powder skiing in the lower elevations if that subsurface tightens up.